Tag Archives: lentils and greens

New Year’s Day Food Traditions: Sauerkraut

 Photo by Andy Mangold

Photo by Andy Mangold

What did you eat on New Year’s Day for luck?

I think it depends on where you came from, or where your family originally came from.  The answers I have had to that question are greens and  black-eyed peas, pork, lentils, and less frequently–fish, cornbread, grapes, and special sweets,

According to Southern Living, the origin of the greens and lentils or black-eyed peas that are popular in the South comes from the Civil War.

According to folklore, this auspicious New Year’s Day tradition dates back to the Civil War, when Union troops pillaged the land, leaving behind only black-eyed peas and greens as animal fodder. Rich in nutrients, these were the humble foods that enabled Southerners to survive. Details of stories differ, but each celebrates a communion of family and friends bound by grateful hearts and renewed hope for good things yet to come.

Others suggest the greens are for paper money and the black-eyed peas signify coins–wealth to come. Another source says the circular pattern of the eye on the black-eyed peas signals a completed cycle of a year.

Pork/ham or sausage may come from this association, suggested in the web site Food Timeline. “pork/ham (because pigs root forward as they eat, embracing challenges)”  They explain that the tradition goes back hundreds of years in many European countries.

The Food Timeline has many interesting references and talk about several lucky foods and the reasoning (or superstition) behind them.

Our family has been eating sauerkraut and sausages on New Year’s Day for generations, now.  It is guaranteed to make you wealthy in the coming year.  Despite the fact that we have not seen any evidence of that result, we keep eating it. After all, this might be the year that it works. On the other hand, perhaps I should add greens, black-eyed peas, cornbread and fish to the menu.

According to another article at Food Timeline, New Englanders choose sauerkraut for their lucky meal, and some countries eat cabbage for luck and prosperity.  That may explain my family’s devotion to sauerkraut for New Year’s Day.  But how does such magical thinking come about?

My theory is that sauerkraut was a plentiful and vitamin-rich food in the dead of winter when most vegetables were no longer available. Everybody was going to be eating ‘kraut in the winter.  It was a food of the poor.  So if you celebrated the ordinary on New Year’s Day, you had no where to go but up during the coming year.

Although there are differing opinions in our household about the edibility of sauerkraut, I actually like it–particularly the way that my mother always prepared it–and her mother before her. So, of course, I stick with the traditional food, cooked in our family’s traditional manner.

Please chime in and tell us what you eat on New Year’s Day.  And if you don’t think you like sauerkraut, you might try this recipe.


New Year’s Day Sauerkraut and Sausage


  • pork sausage (whatever kind is your favorite)
  • 1 Can, jar or package of sauerkraut
  • 1 apple
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar


1. Brown sausage i skillet, pour in a small amount of water and simmer until done. (see package directions). Remove from pan.
2. Core and slice unpeeled apple. Stir apple pieces into sausage drippings in skillet.
3. Drain part of liquid off of sauerkraut and discard. Add sauerkraut to apple slices.
4. Stir in brown sugar and stir until dissolved.
5. Serve with sausage around a mound of sauerkraut.